“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” – Anne Lamott
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” – Anne Lamott
Ten years ago today I met my now-husband. The man now known as Superhubs.
It wasn’t the romantic moment that people imagine it to be. There were no eyes locked across a crowded room. There were no magical shafts of light shining down on us from above. No thunderbolt. No singing angels. No cupid. Nor was it a civilised dinner event where mutually respected parties had machinated a relaxed but contrived circumstance under which we were to be formally introduced to each other. Actually, it was at a fairly weak excuse [British-born Chinese Social Night] for a drunken episode [in a bar/club] on a school [Monday] night.
There are a few things that hubs and myself like to note about that night. They are as follows…
1) He nearly didn’t attend due to ticket price. Let it be known that the tickets were priced at £4. He had been offered a discounted ticket for £2. When a potential ticketing problem occurred, he explicitly stated that if it were to cost more than £2, he wouldn’t be attending… Yes. Two. Whole. Pounds.
2) He nearly didn’t attend due to the typically late arrival of his companions for the evening, which caused him to already be excessively drunk at a different bar – the bar at which he was to meet said companions. Yes. He was already drunk when I met him.
3) I nearly didn’t get tickets in time to attend as my godbrother hadn’t managed to find time to pick some up. I ended up buying tickets on the afternoon of the event.
4) Neither one of us had planned on meeting/hooking up with anyone for the foreseeable future. Particularly as I was scheduled to leave the country 2 months later, and he was scheduled for a year long travel break in roughly 8 months.
5) We were not overly bowled over at our first introductions to each other. He looked dodgy-as-hell (to me) with his long (!) hair and pale appearance (which happens when he drinks). I was out with my [quite built] godbrother, who to the rest of the world appeared to be my boyfriend. Therefore I was “off-the-market” with a guy who could probably flatten most.
So it was not a strong start.
The trouble began when my now-husband became stranded by his companions. He stood, somewhat lost, by the edge of the grinding mob of the dance floor, clutching three drinks in his hands, scanning the darkened noisy room for a familiar face. As it turned out, I was acquainted with his companions. I had met them before at a friend’s barbeque. She and I had chatted and we had been friendly. Her boyfriend had brought his office buddy – a long-haired Chinese guy who sits next to him. When she had introduced him, she had given me that pursed-lips, raised eyebrow ‘look’ – the unspoken signal (between women) that this guy was Not To Be Trusted. Clearly, my senses lapsed when I reached out to inform him that “the guys you came with, I think, have gone outside to chat.” That was the moment when he became part of our bystanding people-watching two-strong event.
So, there we were. Two bystanders who became three. We stood. We sipped our drinks. We watched people. Then out of desperation for conversation I began to steer my godbrother to all the apparently single-looking females in the vicinity. I threw out encouragement along the lines of: Bite the bullet. Seize the day. Go for it. Talk to her. Just offer to buy them a drink. YOU CAN DO IT. But like the mountain of a man that he is, he would not be moved. I grew frustrated. I turned to the newbie to repeat the words of encouragement. Like my godbrother, he too declined to engage. How annoying. Loudly I declared:
“Chinese men. ARE CRAP. They NEVER make the first move. EVER.”
I eyeballed the two Chinese men in my company: Godbrother and Dodgy Newbie. They looked at me, then each other. And newbie said: “That sounds like a challenge. I will prove you wrong. Tonight.”
And so he did. And ever since then, for the last ten years, he has been my Mr Right: Mr Always Right.
Today, I found a resource where I found I could connect with other HSPs.
Today, I connected with people who described experiences in their lives that I could see reflected in my own life.
Today, I stopped feeling like I’m the only one.
At the age of 34, I am only just beginning to learn how to recognise the early signs of toxic and high-maintenance/low-return friendships. But I am far from gaining a much-needed immunity. Actually, with my increased level of self-understanding I have learned that my recurring [failed] friendship pattern in life seems to have been with Narcissists and Sociopaths.
What do I mean by a Narcissist?
People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes. For example, an individual with this disorder may complain about a clumsy waiter’s “rudeness” or “stupidity” or conclude a medical evaluation with a condescending evaluation of the physician. (source)
And what do I mean by Sociopath?
How to spot a Sociopath
- Superficial charm and good intelligence
- Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
- Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations
- Untruthfulness and insincerity
- Lack of remorse and shame
- Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
- Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
- Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
- General poverty in major affective reactions
- Specific loss of insight
- Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
- Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without
- Suicide threats rarely carried out
- Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
- Failure to follow any life plan
Now, before you brand me as a sensationalist drama queen and overly sensitive/taking my failures in friendships too personally (notice my immediate instinct for self-deprecating comments in order to excuse my sensitive personality) – here’s the article where my information comes from:
The Empathy Trap: Empathic People are Natural Targets for Sociopaths – Protect Yourself
…Have a read if you have time.
And so, to continue with my tradition of blogging about my failed friendships (both narcissists, as it turns out), I have one final memoir to type in order to complete the full trilogy. I promise, after this one, there will be no more. Partly because I will no longer blog about them; partly because I hope that it will never happen again. And it’s The Big One too. This was when I nearly became caught in the Empath-Sociopath-Apath triangle…
I have mentioned a significant friend in the past…
I have a friend with whom I have a love/hate relationship with. I love her, and I love to hate and complain about her. She’s fabulously thick skinned and tough though – one of her greatest personality traits is that she is unapologetic about herself. So, I can complain to her about what she’s done to annoy me. But she won’t apologise for it; She won’t get hurt by it. She takes it on the chin, explains herself, but ultimately we just agree to disagree. Rarely does she acquiesce to my point of view. It’s quite a unique friendship and one that I have definitely come to appreciate for it’s long-standing quality despite the aggravation I sometimes subject myself to as a result of her actions, lol.
Taking note of the parts I have highlighted, it seems so transparently clear now, but at the time I was utterly and completely taken in. Always the life and soul of every social event, I had always enjoyed her compelling company. She always made time to see me and she very much enjoyed our chats.
Often empaths are targeted by sociopaths because they pose the greatest threat. The empath is usually the first to detect that something is not right and express what s/he senses. As a consequence, the empath is both the sociopath’s number one foe and a source of attraction; the empath’s responses and actions provide excellent entertainment for sociopaths, who use and abuse people for sport. (source)
But the turning point came when she became a mother. As a HSP (empath), I saw and heard about the pathological corner-cutting approach to childcare and parental duties; I simply could not ignore it. When I became so deeply unsettled by the insight into her parenting style, I naturally began express my concern. Firstly to mutual friends. I was concerned that nobody seemed to know enough about the situation to be concerned, therefore a positive change would be unlikely. I started to seek support, find others who would help me to rehabilitate so-called friend. Teach her, educate her, support her to learn new methods. However, I slowly began to realise that I was forming a deplorable habit of constantly moaning to all and sundry about the same person, over and over again: Not a nice situation to put myself into – nobody likes to spend time with a moaner and nobody likes to *be* a moaner. I was in very real danger of engaging the…
The usual set-up goes like this: the empath is forced to make a stand on seeing the sociopath say or do something underhand. The empath challenges the sociopath, who straight away throws others off the scent and shifts the blame on to the empath. The empath becomes an object of abuse when the apath corroborates the sociopath’s perspective.
The situation usually ends badly for the empath and sometimes also for the apath, if their conscience returns to haunt them or they later become an object of abuse themselves. But, frustratingly, the sociopath often goes scot free. (source)
Being blithely unaware that it could flip and turn against me, I waited and I waited for the opportunity for a confrontation with the friend in question. I prepared to finally confess that I knew of the lax, neglectful and sometimes dangerous tactics she utilised in her parenting style. I was ready to declare that I simply could not stand by and turn a blind eye anymore. I mentally lay waiting like a coiled spring.
But the day never came.
As it turned out, I had never been privy to her inner social circle. Despite the numerous personal conversations where my advice had been sought (and repeatedly unheeded), I had merely existed in her life for the sport and entertainment of my impassioned and sensitive reactions to whatever she decided to share with me that day. I was unimportant and expendable. She had already started the “discard phase” on our friendship.
Eventually I uncoiled. Slowly I calmed down. Finally I moved on.
Life has been much better since :)
If you think you, or someone you know, might have an Antisocial Personality Disorder, or have a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, there are tests for that too…
I’m HSP, I am. I’m HSP, I am. I know I am, I’m sure I am. I’m HSP, I am. * :p
For those who know me, you may (or may not) have noticed that roughly 9 months ago I came upon a personal epiphany where I discovered that I am what is known as a Highly Sensitive Person.
Here is a very well written introduction to an HSP as found on HighlySensitivePeople.com:
Now, as an introduction to the trait of high sensitivity, see if some of these statements resonate with you, or relate to someone important in your life…
You, your partner, or someone important to you have a heightened awareness of subtleties in your environment, whether it’s sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell.
You can become stressed out and upset when overwhelmed and may find it necessary to get away, maybe into a darkened room, to seek solitude, relief and comfort.
You are very creative.
You are very conscientious, hard working, and meticulous, but may become uncomfortable and less efficient or productive when being watched or scrutinized.
You feel compelled to file and organize things and thoughts, also enjoy simplicity and may become overwhelmed or even immobilized by chaos, clutter, or stress.
You are very uncomfortable when feeling things are getting out of your control.
You get a sense of comfort and well being when around a lake, river, stream, the ocean, or even a fountain.
You may experience mood swings, sometimes occurring almost instantly and can also be affected by other people’s moods, emotions and problems.
You have a deep, rich, inner life, are very spiritual, and may also have vivid \s.
You are very intuitive and you feel that you can usually sense if someone isn’t telling the truth or if something else is wrong.
You get concerned and think or worry about many things, and have also been told “you take things too personally.”
You have had the experience of “cutting people out” of your life.
You were considered quiet, introverted, timid, or shy as a child.
So, by “sensitive” it does not just mean emotionally sensitive. It covers all the physical senses too. And basically, that’s me in a nutshell.
I hadn’t intended on going into too much detail about it right here, in this blog post. But if you are wondering if you might also be a HSP, there is a very awesome Self Test available here. This is the test that began the epiphany that has since given me the courage to gain the elusive empowerment I have always faked, but never truly grasped. I’m finally embracing my instincts (or “spidey sense” as my husband affectionately calls it) rather than marginalising it as paranoia or overthinking. I’m learning also that I cannot control how people react to what I say and do, because no matter how sensitive I am, I’m not superhuman. How they react is their responsibility, not mine.
Unfortunately, as much as I am now growing to love and respect my spidey sense, it has also highlighted (and explained) the recurring pattern of damaging friendships I’ve had in my life…
*sung to the tune of “H.A.P.P.Y”
I’m not quite sure how yet another year has swung by me without me noticing, but it clearly has. More to the point though, how have a whole 7, SEVEN, months passed since my last blog post? I must have regained some semblance of ‘life’ IRL for me to neglect blogging.
Or if I’m honest, maybe I just hit writers’ block.
Nevermind. It’s never too late to start afresh – and there’s never a better time for that than in the New Year. Let’s take a look back at the [unrealistic] resolutions I made for 2011…
How many of my 5 resolutions did I manage over the last 365 days? Hmm… How many… Let me see…
1) Save: Fail
2) Go to the bank: Once
3) Practice forgiveness: 0.75
4) Appreciate my Mum more: 9 out of 12 months… 0.75
5) Make time for family – it’s the most important thing and you never know how long you’ll have it for: Achieved.
So that’s approximately 2.5 out of 5. Not a complete failure. Not what I had envisioned and definitely not a complete success either.
It’s been a funny year though if I’m honest with myself. Less about my relationships with the people around me (which, btw, saw a lot of activity/changes/adjustments/edits) and more about my relationship with Me.
I thought that all the postnatal nuttiness had pretty much passed by the time 2011 began, what with Madam being around 18 months of age I felt that surely the hormonally charged funk would have waned, and sanity would resume.
I was wrong.
Having my two beautiful young children has taught me, particularly this year, that you should never rest on your laurels and think for even the minutest of seconds that you know what you’re doing, or that you have this parenting/family life “thing” nailed, with your eyes shut, in the dark. N-uh-uh. Nope. It didn’t work like that for me.
When Madam reached the grand age of 2 whole years, she attained a whole new developmental milestone. She’d been talking for 7 months, so had that on her CV already. She was more independent and self sufficient in that way that only little girls can be. The Little Man had finally grown in self confidence in all areas of life that he too was able to communicate proficiently his frustrations and needs. Life seemed to get good. Life seemed to get straightforward. The kids actually seemed to get easy. I know, right. You can see my mistake coming from a mile away.
And so, I plodded on, each day, nursery pick-ups, playgroup set-ups, laundry, dinner, groceries: The minutiae of daily life. As the days passed, I found the children becoming more draining. Requiring more discipline and thus creating more stress. I was at my wit’s end, wondering what the hell was going wrong. Why, when they should be reaching a plateau, were things suddenly becoming such Hard Work? I fumed, I ranted, I moaned, I whinged. For about 2 months. That’s quite a long time. My poor hubs. Then one evening, en route to a new Zumba class with a good friend, I was trawling through my activities that day to begin my usual listing of ways in which the children had been annoying/naughty/misbehaving, only to find I had nothing: They had been good as gold. All day. And I hadn’t noticed.
The Epiphany struck: I was Bored.
I came home that evening and lamented to poor old hubs that I was well and truly bored of my daily life. I was no longer feeling challenged. My brain felt like it was dying and I lacked any mental stimulus. Hubs stared at me, agog that I had finally seen what he’d known all along, but couldn’t say for fear of being executed. Thrilled and exhilarated by my epiphany he declared sanctimoniously: “You need A Job.”
Er, steady on…
So, I ignored him. And I carried on with a new fitness regime. With Zumba and Ju-Jitsu in my life, I found a physical outlet for frustrations and simultaneously discovered a love for exercise that I never knew I could be capable of. I choose a Zumba class that is known to be choreographically more complex (it’s way more fun, truth be told). And having attained my Ju-Jitsu white belt (and gii, and budo pass, and a whole bunch of great new friends) I’ve found myself to love the aches and pains that follow a really good session of learning new throws, locks and kicks. It’s simply awesome fun! About a month after I began this new weekly routine though, I could feel the boredom creeping up on me again, closely followed by hubs’ quiet smugness. It was time for me to find some work.
I had several suggestions thrown at me, but I trumped for good old fashioned evening food work in the end. One night a week with a view to increasing it to a few nights once I’m comfortable not only in the job, but also with leaving the kids so many nights. I leave them to hubs to do the bedtime routine on his own 3 or 4 nights a week now. The mothering guilt that entails can be awful. But it is a great comfort to know that they are with their Daddy, who is far more patient when it comes to Suicide Hour (4pm onwards), so in many ways they’re gaining a lot in my not being there. Still. The guilt pervades. I’m coping better with it now. It is now 9pm before I contact hubs, asking how the kids are. That’s a vast improvement on 4:30pm, 6pm and 7:30pm. Hubs and I are much better for it too tbh as I have a better understanding of his emotions when he goes to work, and he has a much calmer and fulfilled missus who is no longer scratching at the walls [and his face] from frustration on a daily basis. And to think that I thought maintaining the kids were the hardest part about parenting and family life. HAH. Never underestimate the importance of personal development and maintenance.
So here are my five New Year’s Resolutions for 2012 (I’m not writing them off the top of my head at all, honest):
1) Gain 3 new Ju-Jitsu belts before the end of 2012 (Yellow, Orange and Green)
2) Be working at least 2 nights a week by the Summer Holidays
3) One compulsory date night a month with hubs
4) Leave the children to stay with Grandparents (plus Aunties) for at least one night before the end of 2012
5) Practice tolerance with my parents dysfunctionality. (Long story – maybe another blog post someday)
And that’s it!
So, let me wish you all a very Happy New Year: May it bring you many happy reflections on 2011 and hopes for the coming new year :)
My final thought: